27 March, 2008

One Word: RAVE

So, here we are, Thursday night, March 27th, 2008 and the curtain just dropped at Gypsy at the St. James Theatre in New York City. The reviews are in and I couldn't have dreamed of anything better. Mostly raves with a good one thrown in for kicks. Not only did Variety adore it and TheaterMania practically trip over themselves trying to give the best compliments, but Ben Brantley of the New York Times was also among the rave reviewers:

"And Ms. Benanti, in the performance of her career, traces Louise’s path to becoming her mother’s daughter out of necessity. The transformation of the waifish Louise into the vulpine Gypsy Rose Lee is completely convincing. And you’re acutely aware of what’s lost and gained in the metamorphoses."

"When Ms. LuPone delivers “Rose’s Turn,” she’s building a bridge for an audience to walk right into one woman’s nervous breakdown. There is no separation at all between song and character, which is what happens in those uncommon moments when musicals reach upward to achieve their ideal reasons to be. This “Gypsy” spends much of its time in such intoxicating air."

Some of the truest stuff I've ever heard. My God, I love this show!

15 March, 2008

The Aftershocks Remain

It’s rare that a musical can both effectively break your heart and help heal it by the end, but Next to Normal does just that. With a cast lead by arguably the best musical theatre actress of our day (Alice Ripley, finally back in New York after an eight-year absence), this little Off-Broadway show is a perfect example of the elusive show than can both move and teach, that can break you down and build you up again.

Diana Goodman is typical suburban mom with a not-so-typical problem: manic-depression. But it’s the source of Diana’s depression -- and all the baggage that goes with it -- which makes this musical so brilliant.

With the addition of heartbreaking performances by Brian D’arcy James and Jennifer Damiano, the solid Asa Somers, and the haunting Aaron Tveit, Next to Normal touchingly portrays the problems caused by dealing with the symptoms of anxiety and depression without addressing the underlying root of the problem; giving a limbless man morphine doesn’t stop the bleeding or heal the wound, it only numbs the pain. As Diana puts it, after sixteen years of unsuccessful treatment: “What happens if the cut, the burn, the break/was never in my brain, or in my blood, but in my soul?”

In our over-medicated society, it is both heartbreaking and refreshing to see a show that reveals the dangers of jumping to pharmaceutical conclusions and moves us to consider that sometimes the only thing worse than the symptom is the cure.

05 March, 2008

Hold Your Hats and Hallelujah!

From Vanity Fair's April issue.

I'm pretty sure that this picture needs neither comment, nor explanation from yours truly.